Fill the Bucket

This week’s Leadership Column is courtesy of Lisa Drylie

Your bucket can be filled or emptied in many ways, ways you don’t always expect. I recently sent an email to a colleague just to share some kind sentiments shared with me by a student. It took me less than 30 seconds to do this. Turns out, that colleague was having one of “those days”. We’ve all had them, days when we question what we are doing, questions whether we are making a difference. I ran into the colleague a few days later and he stopped to thank me for the email and shared how it had turned his day around. How great that felt! My one simple act filled another’s bucket, and I ended up filling mine too.

The bucket filling concept has been around for several decades. The “bucket” is your mental and emotional self. We can easily fill and dip into other’s buckets. One’s confidence, happiness, and energy is closely tied to their bucket. The fuller it is, the better you feel. When your bucket has been dipped into and it runs on empty, you will have more negative thoughts, experience feelings of dread and depression, and just general unhappiness. Simple concept really, full bucket = happy, empty bucket = sad.

As colleagues, it is up to us to fill each other’s buckets while at work. OF COURSE we should be filling, and not dipping, the buckets of our students, but we need to be aware of each other too. Our work place consists of 100(ish) adults and 1000+ teenagers. I don’t know what the “normal” world of work is like – one where there aren’t 1000+ teenagers running around, but I do know it presents challenges that people outside of education cannot fathom. I doubt that in a “normal” work place that an employee interacts with 150+ different people every day, like we do. It’s hard, stressful and at times exhausting! But one fill of a bucket can rejuvenate, energize and support a coworker.

Filling a bucket is easy to do. It can be a simple smile as you pass a colleague in the hallway or a meaningful compliment. Here at OMHS, we have many bucket filling opportunities built into our normal. The lovely Donna collects kudos weekly that are included in the bulletin you are currently reading. The energizing Lisa M. (aka “sassy Lisa”) just invited the faculty to participate in Secret Eagles. The early bird Dana and our FALS students deliver coffee to classrooms every morning – how easy it would be to buy a colleague a hot cup of joe?

Unfortunately, dipping into a bucket can be easy too. One unkind sentence, or even word, one negative criticism or complaint can empty a bucket. One dirty look – or dare I say, mean mug – can empty a bucket. One ignored request from a colleague, can dip into a bucket. A building full of empty buckets can be toxic. For a brief moment, forget about the students. Let’s make this about each other. A supportive work place where we are all happy, energetic, understanding and tolerant is a place where I want to work.

Although I am a counselor, I do not consider myself to be “warm and fuzzy” and please don’t come my way looking for a hug. When I was first exposed to this bucket filling idea, it seemed very elementary school to me; it is after all a concept used at my children’s elementary school. But the more I have looked into it, the more I have come to appreciate it. It’s more than “being nice”. It’s about helping others and supporting their needs. It’s about encouraging each other and working together. It’s about being happy.

So I ask, have you filled a bucket today?


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